Perch are a common fish found in many of North Americas freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. They are a popular sportfish that is also a tasty fish dinner. Ice fishermen celebrate a limit of perch which can vary from 50 to 10 fish a day. Check local limits, which can vary from lake to lake in the same state.
Yellow Perch are the most common Percidae. These brilliantly colored fish can grow to over 6 lbs. and live for 10-15 years. Average perch are 10 -12 inches long. Most are caught on live minnows, where legal, and worms. They are found around structures, grasses, and in schools. Where you catch one, there are more. Spawning begins in January and lasts through March. There are 140 species of perch just in North America alone. The Montana state record is 14.375 inches and 2.39 lbs. It was caught in the Lower Stillwater Pond in 2006.
You can sex a perch by looking at their abdomen vents. There are two vents. One is the anus, and the other is a urogenital slit. The slit in a female perch is shaped in a V or U shape and is the same size as the anus. A male has a round urogenital opening and is also more colorful, and smaller than the bigger Roe/female perch.
Winter and early spring are when perch spawn. Ice fishermen tend to catch Roe or female perch, full of roe. These fish tend to suspend off points and channels. When feasting on plankton, the perch will be on the bottom of channels and depressions, where the plankton is found in abundance.
Roe or Perch eggs are released in a skein, that is discharged from the female. Males are stimulated by the skein release and spread milt over the skeins. These egg sacks attach to sticks and debris, where they hatch. 3 in 1,000 eggs become an adult. Despite this low survival, perch can overpopulate a lake and become stunted. Careful management can control harvests and health of this resource.
Walleyes are also in the Percidae family. Though most are caught at 5-6 years of age, they can live up to 29 years! Though walleye and perch feast on smaller minnows, insects, and plankton, they are preyed on by larger fish such as northern pike. Another name of a walleye is the “Yellow Pickerel”.
The rough or Ctenoid scales make scaling a challenge. Using an electric filet knife makes for fast and full filets. While you are cleaning the perch, count the slits in their gill plates to determine age.
Perch are a fun sportfish for all ages!